Pacific Coast Highway – US101 Oregon Edition

In my last post, I shared my experiences on US101 in California. Crossing the border into Oregon began another odyssey. The climate did not improve as I went north. In fact, it got worse. I encountered cold temperatures, sleet, and rain every day. I found a few intermittent periods of sunshine or at least dry with overcast skies. I used those periods to see what I could see on this coastal journey. Sadly, it was not as much as I had hoped. I took two weeks to travel the Oregon coast staying at 10 different spots. I boondocked, had full hookups, and stayed at state parks, a USFS campground, a casino, county parks, a Cheese Farm, and a marina. I enjoy variety!

The Odyssey of Campgrounds and Places to Stay

I stayed at four Oregon State Parks. Oregon has great state parks for camping. My only negative comment is that they charge out-of-state campers an extra 25% on the nightly rate. Oregon camping has water and electric sites and a free-to-anyone dump station at every park. The parks are well maintained and I had very nice sites. Three of the four had beach access and the fourth (Tugman) had a lake. I always enjoy water access wherever I camp. Unlike California, these state parks could accommodate my 25-foot trailer without a problem. I would have stayed at additional state parks but they were booked. My travels coincided with the statewide spring break and plenty of people were camping.

1. Harris Beach State Park – Brookings

Harris Beach State Park was my first stop in Oregon. It was my first opportunity to see the coastal “islands” or rock outcroppings that Oregon is famous for. I enjoyed a sometimes sunny afternoon and warmer temperatures that gave me what turned out to be false hope, that better days were ahead. The full-service town of Brookings is a couple of miles south and very convenient. The access to the beach from the park is down different sets of stairs – either from the campground or down a hill in the day-use area (where you can drive and park). I elected not to do the stairs routine but enjoyed the fresh sea air, warm sunshine, and the views which were gorgeous. My second day turned dark, cloudy, and rainy but I used it to get services in Brookings and enjoy the view of the ocean from my campsite.

2. Boice-Cope County Park – Langlois

Boice-Cope County Park was my next destination near Langlois. I turned off US101 onto county roads through farms. I passed a sheep farm with a number of lambs in the field. Sadly, it was a week before Easter and as a vegan, I tried not to think about their fate. The county park sits at the coastline behind the dunes and a freshwater lake that sits higher than the ocean. Windsurfers come to this park to sail on the lake. The dunes are several stories high but there is a cut-through where the lake and ocean meet. I stepped out of my truck and could hear the ocean. I could walk fifty yards down the road and see it. I love being that close. The park hosted only a dozen spaces for RVs and had a very nice host in residence. The spaces were paved and level with water and electric hookups. The price was cheap and I settled in for what ended up being rainy days.

I took a day trip to Bandon, just a bit north of Langlois, to visit the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge at Coquille Point. The US Forest Service manages the migratory bird and sea animal nesting spots on the rock formations along the coast and has declared them a refuge. I missed seeing the Puffins who would arrive two weeks later. There is an interpretive sign-filled paved walk along the point and marvelous coastal views. Even though it was cold, windy, and rainy, I thoroughly enjoyed this place.

3. Tugman State Park – Lakeside

My next stop was Tugman State Park which is just east of US101. On the other side of the highway is Umpqua Beach which is a haven for OHV enthusiasts – what we used to call dune buggies. Because of the rain and cold, the park was quiet, though a few die-hards with their buggies were in the park and ready for action. The park borders Eel Lake. There is a trail from the campground to the lake and I looked forward to hiking. Sadly, the weather did not cooperate. I don’t camp in a tent and I don’t hike in the rain.

4. Three Rivers Casino – Florence

To compensate for the out-of-state surcharge at the state parks, I stayed one night for free at the Three Rivers Casino in Florence. This was a five-star experience. They have a few spaces with electric hookups. I elected not to use it since I was only staying one night. My lithium batteries were fully charged and I knew I would be fine. The casino has an on-call golf cart that will come to your RV and take you across the vast parking lot to the casino. As with most of the casinos, you must get a player’s card. They preload the card with a few dollars for free play and a very generous rewards program. I could have stayed additional nights if I gambled and reached a minimum point level. I bought some food to go and had a great night’s sleep in this secure, level, and quiet parking area. Of course, it rained.

I traveled through the Siuslaw National Forest en route to my next stop. Breathtaking.

5. Tillicum Campground – Yachats

My next stop was a traditional standard, non-electric camping experience at Tillicum Campground managed by the US Forest Service. The park is on the beach and I could hear the ocean at my site on the non-ocean-front loop. Plenty of trees in the campground made it a lovely experience. Sadly, the concrete steps down to the beach ended at a pile of rocks (both staircases). Because of the rain, the rocks were wet and slippery. You have to climb over these rocks to get to the beach and I am not steady enough for that. I might have been able to use my hiking poles to anchor my position, but I had read a review online from a woman who had slipped, fell, and badly twisted her ankle. I opted to sit at the picnic tables in empty campsites and marvel at the beach. There was less rain at this stop than in previous days.

I had beautiful sunshine as I took a day trip to Cape Perpetua and watched the waves crash on the rocks and the cove beach, far below me. There is a winding, steep trail that takes you down to the beach. I saw some folks coming up and looking worse for the wear. I elected to take in the views from above, knowing that somewhere along the way I would find a beach I could actually walk on without a grueling effort. I passed through the town of Yachats, just south of the campground. It seemed like a typical beach community that was mostly closed up in this unrelenting winter.

6. McKinley’s Marina and RV Park – Waldport

I opted for a refueling overnight stay at McKinley’s Marina and RV Park in Waldport. It was a mere 20 minutes north of Tillicum. When I do a slow roll, I do it s-l-o-w. I needed electricity for my batteries, propane for my furnace, and laundry for my clothes. This place delivered all three on-site in a serviceable park on the Alsea River that dumps into the ocean a mile away. This is a very popular crabbing area that fills up during the season. One of the sights to see is the amazing Alsea Bay Bridge. This is one of many Art Deco bridges on the 101 in Oregon. I usually didn’t have an opportunity to photograph them. They are all very different but each has flourishes at either end of the bridge in that distinctive art style.

The next leg of my trip took me on some seriously winding roads where US101 seems more like a county road than a US highway. I traveled through numerous popular beach locations and coastal points. I seriously wished I were traveling in a van so I could go and visit these spots. Towing a trailer sometimes has its limitations. The mountains gave way to foothills and green pastures. I was entering dairy country. Of course, it was raining. I drove slowly because there were lots of places with no shoulder, no guardrail, and a dropoff. I saw what looked like an older Airstream or maybe an Avion turned over on its side, having fallen off the edge of the road into a forested hillside. It wasn’t pretty. Looks like it had been there a while. This was my longest travel day – about two hours.

7. Blue Heron French Cheese Company – Tillamook

I arrived at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company in Tillamook. They let you park in their very level gravel parking lot for free. I grabbed some takeout for a late lunch and had breakfast in their fast-food dining room which was lovely. There’s a petting zoo, complete with crowing roosters, chickens, and goats on the property.

8. Bar Jetty County Campground – Garibaldi

The Tillamook area was a good place to stop and catch my breath for a few days. I stayed at a county park, Bar Jetty Campground. From the day-use area, there is great beach access over the dunes with easy walking up and over, a jetty, and beautiful views of Tillamook Bay and the waves rolling in. I had some sunshine and was a happy camper while I waited for check-in time (strictly enforced!).

The campground was not five-star. Small sites on top of each other, gravel on grass pads, and uneven ground around the sites such that my sewer hose had to go uphill (fail). The great redeeming values were the day-use area and the low price per night. Sadly, a hail storm erupted one day. I never made it outside šŸ˜¦

The Best for Last

I saved the best two places for my last two stays – Nehalem State Park in Manzanitas and Fort Stevens State Park in Astoria. These are two of the best state parks I’ve ever stayed in and both had wonderful beach access, trails, and ambiance.

9. Nehalem State Park – Manzanitas

At Nehalem State Park I had a fair weather afternoon when I got there and promptly went to the beach. An easy trail from the campground goes up and over the dune and down to the beach. It was spectacular. I absolutely loved my time there.

It rained the next day, but I drove south to Cannon Beach. It was fairly busy with all the spring break families. I wasn’t going to let the rain stop me from an obligatory pilgrimage to the Haystack. Although the lack of parking nearly kept me away. The beachfront is extremely wide and the Haystack is an imposing obelisk. It seems otherworldly to see this huge rock formation just sitting near the shoreline. I managed to get a few photos as the wind, sand, and rain pelted me. It wasn’t that bad, but it was tedious. I had been living in nearly daily rain since the first of the year. I’m used to the misty rain in Seattle. This was rain-rain with intermittent sleet. Manzanitas and Cannon Beach are small beach towns with limited services and goods but plenty of little restaurants and bars for seaside fun. I’m sure these places are hopping in the summer.

An unexpected find along the way was Oswalt West State Park. US101 south of Cannon Beach runs through the park and there are a number of car pullouts along the road. The mountains tower above as you look over the cliff to the beach and ocean below. It was reminiscent of Big Sur. At one stop you can see the beach at Manzanitas and it was quite a beautiful view. Nehalem has several trails in the park that I did not get to take due to the weather. I would return to this lovely place to camp in sites that are asphalt, set apart from each neighbor with a reasonable distance, and well-kept grounds.

10. Fort Stevens State Park – Astoria/Warrenton

Fort Stevens is just up the road at the Northwesternmost point of Oregon. It held a special interest to me because it is in the area where Lewis & Clark spent their winter after they reached the Pacific. The park is quite large and the campground is not at the beach. There are several places you can drive to in the park with beach access or you can walk a paved trail starting in the campground to the beach (about a mile one way). There are miles of trails, left unexplored in the dismal weather. I did stand at the point on the beach where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. It is a marvelously energetic place. I loved it. Seeing what they saw and standing where they stood was inspiring. The Discovery Expedition took 4 years to go from the Ohio River to the Pacific and back. I traveled many of those miles and stayed in many places they stayed. I recommend Steven Ambrose’s history, Undaunted Courage. I found it fascinating.

I took a day trip to Fort Clatsop where the Lewis & Clark party built their winter quarters. It’s a National Historic Park and was loaded with interpretive history markers and trails. There is a replica of the Fort on site. People seemed to be very tiny in the dawn of the 1800s. Finally, the weather cooperated and I hiked to my heart’s content!

An unexpected bonus at Fort Stevens is its elk population! I saw them when I drove into the park, in the Fort Clatsop area, and finally, on my last day, I saw them at my campground loop. This time it was an all-female group, unlike the bachelor herd I saw at Elk Prairie campground in Califonia. They munched on tender new grass next to the campsites. What a treat to see these magnificent, wild creatures up close.

As I left my wonderful stay at Fort Stevens, I crossed Youngs Bay to the city of Astoria. This is a fishing town, a Victorian town, and sits on a point facing the Columbia River. There are great views along the waterfront road that becomes US30 which took me east. US101 goes across the river to Washington and lands you at that state’s Lewis & Clark area – Deception Pass State Park. I was supposed to camp host there and be an interpretive host in the museum, but my plans changed and I had to decline. More on that in my upcoming posts.

Last morning at my last US 101 stop – Fort Stevens SP

My US101 journey was beautiful and challenging. It was deeply personal. It’s an iconic roadway that I’ve dreamed of traveling as a wannabe wandering writer like Kerouac. I spent so much time in my youth and young adulthood on US1 that it seemed fitting to drive US101. The coast has a special appeal to me and I understand why the Pacific is a magnet for so many people. It is wild and untamed in a way that the east coast of the US isn’t. The beauty of the coast has been maintained, if for no other reason than the coastal mountains inhibit development. Two days after I left Fort Stevens, I reached Olympia where you turn off of I-5 onto US101 to enter the Olympic Peninsula. I’ve done that full trip around the Peninsula on several different trips. It was a comforting sign to see, knowing how far I had come to return to this spot I now know well. And if you’re wondering…Big Sur beats the Oregon coast – hands down.

Big Sur, California

4 Comments

  1. Too bad the weather didnā€™t cooperate so you could hike more. Ā But spring needs the rain for the flowers. Ā Glad you are doing good. Ā Hope to see you soon. Pam

    Sent from AT&T Yahoo Mail for iPad

    Liked by 1 person

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